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Scientists call for new ethical guidelines for 'synthetic embryos'

Dr Rachel Huddart

Progress Educational Trust

02 April 2017

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[BioNews, London]

Rapid advances in stem cell and embryo research are in danger of outstripping current ethical guidelines and new regulations are urgently needed, warn scientists in a report published this week.

'Synthetic' structures – such as organoids or embryos assembled from stem cells in the lab – are increasingly being used in cutting-edge research. These structures, referred to in the report as 'synthetic human entities with embryo-like features' (SHEEFs), are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and even more complex examples could soon be seen – for example, a rudimentary brain connected to a beating heart.

At the moment, there are no specific ethical guidelines or regulatory bodies covering the use of SHEEFs, and the report from scientists of Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands highlights how current legislation regulating embryo research is not applicable to these living structures.

Currently, research using embryos is only permitted in the UK during the first 14 days after fertilisation, before the embryo has started to develop a feature called the primitive streak. The report, published in the journal eLife, argues that guidelines based on these 'stop signs' of strict timelines or the appearance of certain features are unsuitable for SHEEF research. This is because SHEEFs do not necessarily follow the same developmental process as embryos and would not necessarily hit these limits before developing attributes that are of ethical concern.

Speaking to NPR Shots, the report's lead author Dr John Aach of Harvard Medical School explained their concept for new regulations: 'What we're proposing is, instead of doing stop signs, we get these perimeter fences – where there's an agreement that there's an area of concern. For example, it might be agreed that we can't make a brain that will allow it to feel pain or we can't make something like a heart – but we can make up to it… as long as it doesn't start beating.'

For this 'perimeter fence' strategy to work, the report's authors suggest that a register of ethically concerning features be drawn up, with a biological definition given to each feature to allow easy identification.

Co-author Dr Jeantine Lunshof from Harvard Medical School and the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, said: 'The quest to understand human development and human disease and to formulate therapies for them should be carefully weighed against the moral concerns that arise in the course of these scientific inquiries… The time to start the conversation on how to achieve that is now.'


A New Form of Stem-Cell Engineering Raises Ethical Questions
New York Times | 21 March 2017

Addressing the ethical issues raised by synthetic human entities with embryo-like features
eLife | 21 March 2017

Ethical Guidelines on Lab-Grown Embryos Beg for Revamping, Scientists Say
Scientific American | 21 March 2017

Harvard Scientists Call For Better Rules To Guide Research On 'Embryoids'
NPR | 21 March 2017

Researchers Argue for 'Embryoid' Ethics Revamp
The Scientist | 22 March 2017

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 02 April 2017   Date Updated: 02 April 2017
Customer Reviews (1)
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Ke-Hui Cui   07 May 2017
M.D., Ph.D.
ARTIFICIAL EMBRYOS SHOULD NOT BE TRANSFERRED TO UTERUS TO PRODUCE SUBHUMAN BEINGS Yes. It is the time to set up ethical guidelines for further stem cell research at the level of tissues and organs. To use stem cells to produce tissue or organ for medical treatment (rather than germline treatment) is good for human medicine, because it will not change human beings in heredity. To produce a heart without beating is not useful. Artificial heart should contain heart function. To produce brain tissue which containing normal functions is good for repair damaged tissue. However, to produce a whole brain is not a good subject. The reason is: one person to be existing in the world is depending on the brain to control all of the body parts and to recognize the world. One brain means one person. To use a whole baby brain to replace an adult brain is not ethical. Head transplant is not ethical too. TO PRODUCE ARTIFICIAL HUMAN BEINGS SHOULD BE BANNED IN FUTURE BY SECURITY COUNCIL OF UNITED NATIONS. Please further read the following comment which is for another paper report. It will be helpful as one of your reference. ARTIFICIAL NEW SPECIES – SUBHUMAN BEINGS (Abnormal Cell Anatomy of MRT Subhuman Species) Professor Sir Doug Turnbull wished UK to become the third country to produce artificial subhuman babies. The first baby of this kind of artificial subhuman (in human history) was reported by infamous Dr. John Zhang in 2016 in U.S. His work was performed in U.S. by a technique called spindle transfer, and embryo was transferred in Mexico. The event was a critical and tremendous signal to our human beings: human species will be artificially changed into subhuman species. Was that a good news or bad news for our human beings? Absolutely, it was a very, very bad news for human beings, patient families and for true scientists. Why? Because the superior hereditary genes, chromosomes, microtubules and mitochondria in the eggs, sperm and embryos (i.e. in the germline cells) of our nature human beings will be disturbed, torn, mixed and changed. They will be changed into inferior and abnormal genes, chromosomes, microtubules and mitochondria in the abnormal cellular atmosphere, structures, contents and relationship. Human reproduction will be changed to be subhuman reproduction. There are several reported methods for pseudoscientists and money chasers to use subhuman reproduction to damage and replace human reproduction, such as A. Mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT). For example: mitochondrial Augment Program by OvaSciences suggested that artificially extracted mitochondria should be injected into every eggs to produce our human babies. The MRT techniques will produce MRT Subhuman Species; B. Artificial human sperm, oocytes or embryos derived from human stem cell culture will be used to produce babies. Stem cell techniques will produce Stem Cell Subhuman Species; C. Human gene(s) will be modified in human sperm, oocytes and embryos by gene CRISPR techniques. People will further use them to produce babies. It will produce CRISPR Subhuman Species; D. Human cloning to produce Cloning Subhuman Species; … etc. On March 16, 2017, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in UK changed their work responsibility from human reproduction to subhuman reproduction, and granted UK licence to Newcastle Fertility Centre to perform MRT with pro-nuclear transfer (PNT) or maternal spindle transfer (MST) techniques. From the reported news, meeting conversation and paper reports, PNT and MST techniques have been shown very detrimental effects on eggs, on the fertilized zygotes and on their future results: from low embryo cleavage rate, low blastocyst rate, high miscarriage rate to high stillbirth rate. The inferior results of the subhuman reproduction from MRT are very easy to be understood by the following Cell Anatomy: All chromosomes in the eggs and zygotes are not freely floating in the nucleoplasm and cytoplasm. They are anchored to the nuclear membrane and then further anchored to the cell membrane by microtubules and endoplasmic reticulum in very good order by natural cellular system. Such as: No. 1 chromosome connecting to No. 1 microtubule is anchored on part 1 location of the egg membrane.… And up to No. 22 chromosome connecting to No. 22 microtubule is anchored on part 22 location of the egg membrane, …. Except chromosomes, all of the tiny organelles such as mitochondria (producing energy ATP), Golgi apparatus (producing proteins), endoplasmic reticulum, … etc. in the nature eggs and the zygotes are all organized well in good order. Near Chromosome 1, there are more Golgi and mitochondria around and connect (or channel) with it due to chromosome 1 is the longest chromosome containing more genes which will produce more proteins and will need more energy. The No. 1 microtubule will be stronger microtubule to hold the heaviest chromosome. Near the Chromosome 22, there are lesser Golgi and mitochondria around and connect (or channel) with it due to chromosome 22 is the very small chromosome containing not too many genes, which will produce much lesser proteins and will need lesser energy. The No. 22 microtubule will be a weaker microtubule to hold the lighter chromosome. People originally thought genes control all activities of the cells. However, cytoplasm and normal organelle structures in cytoplasm have recently been confirmed that they have a lot of important function to influence on and feedback to nuclear DNA in gene expression by several channels and cellular systems. When pseudoscientists performed MRT to prevent mitochondrial diseases, could they keep the normal human cell structures to be intact? It is not possible for anyone to do so. PNT and MST will: First, tear and break the microtubules in all different length and at different locations; Second, disturb all of the organelles into chaotic order at different location; Third, break down all of the normal configuration and relation of the organelles; and Fourth, the transferred chromosomes will be randomly reconnecting to different microtubules at different location with different length. In all of these severe disturbance during PNT and MST, chromosomal disturbance will produce the most profound influence on the eggs and zygote for future abnormal development: early death of the embryos, fetus, babies and children, … The Pathology and Genetics related to the abnormal Cell Anatomy in MRT subhuman species will be outlined as the following: A. NO CONNECTION OF CHROMOSOME. After MRT, if the broken part of the microtubule could not find the opposite part of microtubule or chromosome to reconnect, the related chromosomes will be lost and produce aneuploidy of the cell. The embryos will die, or will survive and produce babies with chromosomal abnormalities. B. ABNORMAL LENGTH OF MICROTUBULES. First, if a short broken microtubule reconnects to another short broken microtubule after MRT, it will produce extra-short microtubule, which will make it easy to be torn apart in cell cleavage. The chromosome reconnecting to this new short microtubule will be lost and produce aneuploidy. Second, if a long broken microtubule reconnects to another long broken microtubule after MRT, it will produce extra-long microtubule, which will wrap around any chromosome(s) like a long rope. The simple and better result of this wrap around chromosome(s) will produce aneuploidy and the embryo dies. The complex results of this wrap around chromosome(s) will produce small chromosomal abnormalities or influence normal gene expression (i.e. to produce new genetic disease) at any later stage of embryo or fetus development, after birth, at childhood, in adult, in aging time, in any future generations. C. CROSSOVER OR TWIST OF MICROTUBULES AND CHROMOSOMES. If microtubules mismatch opposite microtubules with different chromosomes after MRT, it will produce crossover each other or severely twist together by microtubules. a. When microtubule crossover occurs: the eggs or embryos will die in severe condition. In less severe conditions, eggs and future embryos will survive, and chromosomal abnormalities or gene diseases will happen after birth at different ages or in future generations due to the crossover microtubules press, wrap and influence normal action of those related chromosomes and genes. b. When microtubule twist occurs: the eggs or embryos will die because they will not cleave smoothly. D. DISLOCATION OF CHROMOSOMES. After MRT, if No. 1 Chromosome is reconnected to No. 22 microtubule, the No. 1 Chromosome will be pulled by the No. 22 microtubule to the original No. 22 chromosome environment. In that wrong location, there are lesser Golgi and mitochondria around and connect (or channel) with the No. 1 Chromosome. It will make No. 1 Chromosome difficult to obtain enough energy to maintain normal gene function, and difficult to produce enough proteins for cell normally to run on all kinds of function. It will produce gene mutation, metabolic diseases or cancer. Different chromosomal dislocation (from No. 1 chromosome to No. 22 chromosome, X and Y chromosomes) will produce different abnormal cell structures. These abnormal cell structures will be of countless styles according to the different order and different combination (in math) of 24 kinds of chromosomal dislocation. These abnormal cell structures will produce plenty of unknown genetic diseases and other diseases. E. DISCONNECTION OF NORMAL COMMUNCATION IN CELLULAR ORGANELLES. The normal communication channels between DNA and other organelles, such as endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi, …etc. will be torn off by MRT. The new reset communication will be much worse than the original nature one. The new abnormal organelle communication will severely influence nuclear gene expression, energy production and all kinds of cellular function, although the shape of all of the cells is still kept to be the same. Array Comparative Genomic Hybridization (aCGH) technique can find out the above A. no connection of chromosome, but it may not find out the above B and C condition (abnormal length of microtubules, and crossover or twist of microtubules and chromosomes). Technique of aCGH is not possible to find out the above D and E condition – dislocation of chromosomes and disconnection of normal communication in cellular organelles. Thus aCGH is not so useful in evaluation abnormal cell structures destroyed by MRT techniques. It may detect most of aneuploidy, but it can not detect any abnormal functions of the euploidy cells with abnormal cell structures. In mice experiments in 1991, embryo cells at 8 cell stage were pressed by glass pipette needles (i.e. let cell organelles to be pressed 3 to 5 seconds) and then the press was released, and all cells immediately restored to their original location and shape. However, it produced two mice stillbirth in 41 offspring. The control group (39 mice pups) were all normal. It confirmed that: even gentle cell organelle dislocation or distortion would severely change cell structures, organ function and life system function. The damage from MRT manipulation (i.e. chromosome transfer) is horrible when comparing with this simple pressing test. To greatly disturb all organelles in the eggs or zygotes by MRT will significantly change the natural structures of Cell Anatomy of our human species into chaotic condition. DIFFERENT MRT CHILD WILL HAS DIFFERENT ABNORMAL CELL STRUCTURES IN CELL ANATOMY. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME AS NATURAL AND NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS WHICH CONTAINING ONLY ONE SAME CELL STRUCTURES IN ALL OF THE SIX BILLIONS OF HUMAN POPULATION. SINCE HUMAN BEINGS EXIST IN THE WORLD FOR OVER I MILLION YEARS, THIS SAME CELL STRUCTURES HAVE NOT BEEN CHANGED BY ANYONE. Center performing MRT is a factory to change the unique normal cell structures in human beings to be countless abnormal cell structures in the subhuman species. The center will produce all new kinds of chromosomal abnormalities or new genetic diseases which we have not known before. All of those new kinds of chromosomal abnormalities or new genetic diseases and other kinds of diseases will be discovered in the life time of those three parent’s children and their future different generations forever. These new diseases will be a very heavy burden to patients’ families and English government forever. Those babies with abnormal cell anatomic structures are a new species in heredity, an inferior species, or MRT subhuman species. There are TWO CHARACTERISTICS IN THE MRT SUBHUMAN SPECIES (OR MRT SPECIES): ONE IS: THEY CONTAIN THREE PARENTS’ GENES; AND ANOTHER IS: CHAOS OF CELLULAR ORGANELLES IN CELL ANATOMY (STRUCTURES). Anatomy is the basic stone of human medicine. Cells are the basic stone of our organs and systems in human body. The chaos of cellular organelles produced by MRT will only produce inferior cellular structures (detailed as above paragraph A,B,C, D and E), and inferior cellular function (detailed as above paragraph D and E), i.e. inferior cells. The inferior cells will only be composed to be inferior organs, and inferior organs will only produce inferior rather than superior systems, thus will only produce inferior and subhuman babies rather than normal human babies. These subhuman people will have the appearance as same as our human beings. Nevertheless, they are abnormal in their cell structures, in their weak organ and system function. Everyone can reasonably understand it. Is it true in fact? The fact is: It is not possible to say the baby produced by Dr. John Zhang is normal and healthy, because all of the boy’s cells are all containing abnormal cell structures –abnormal Cell Anatomy. No anyone in the world is able to diagnose his abnormal cell structures at present even electron microscopy to be used. His abnormal cell structures will continuously inhere to his offspring forever. It will need two to three generations and up to ten generations to evaluate the safety for any research about heredity or genetic change, which should have a very perfect and mandatory documentation system for every offspring in all life, and for further generations. In the world, no any center, institute or country has set up this kind of research system, such as: yearly health check,…and up to birth certificate, driver’s licence and social security number specially designed for the MRT species. It also showed that HFEA is not responsible in their MRT job. Without using large number of animal research data statistically comparing the control group to confirm genetic problem, it is not a scientist’s behavior. All of Dr. John Zhang’s reports showed, he had one live birth and 5 stillbirths (in China). Stillbirth is 500% of the live birth. However, in general IVF, stillbirth to live birth will be lesser than 5%. That means: MRT with nuclear transfer produced 100 times of stillbirth more than usual IVF. Dr. John Zhang failed to explain why he produced so high stillbirth rate in all of his reports. Abnormal cell anatomy of MRT can be perfectly to be used in explanation of the stillbirth reason for Dr. John Zhang in the following paragraph. Dr. Jacques Cohen performed MRT with 5-10% of cytoplasm transfer which was mild damage to the eggs and embryos, because no chromosome transfer was performed. He only selected 13 from 17 cases to report. He failed in his job responsibility to collect the whole data scientifically and honorably to report to the people. His incomplete report still showed the MRT babies (produced by only cytoplasm transfer) are suffering from more immune deficiencies and neuropathy problem than usual incident rate of general population. It showed that the three parents’ proteins and genes may be the factors to harm the offspring’s immune system and mental development by embryonic feedback mechanism which has been confirmed in mouse experiments. When small disturbance of cellular organelles by injection 5-10% donor’s cytoplasm, it produced lesser inferior cells than the prognoses of PNT or MST which the chromosomes were transferred. However, the results still showed the inferior function of immune and nervous system in the 13 reported children. The results of the quadruplet which did not be reported are very questionable in safety. When chromosomes were transferred in MRT, inferior organ and system problems were very severe due to the cells lack of energy and lack of normal function, which have been detailed in the above paragraphs about abnormal cell anatomy in MRT. The inferior function of the respiratory, nervous, circulatory, muscular and endocrine system was the reason for the five stillbirth performed by Dr. John Zhang. The Pathophysiology of MRT stillbirth is: Birth was a very stressful condition for the fetus and the baby. Endocrine system should be greatly activated to mobilize the respiratory, nervous, circulatory, muscular system to work much harder together for further survival when birth is on the way. The inferior systems which were composed by the inferior cells (disturbed cell structures by MRT) failed to work. During stress, the blood vessels composed of inferior cells would contract abnormally and stopped the blood to go back to the heart. The inferior heart could not react with normal function and heart failure happens. It further produced respiratory failure. The stillbirth happened immediately. If live births happen, those MRT babies’ future will be full of risk, from sudden death (lack of normal stress reaction), all kinds of severe diseases (which were mentioned above) to short of life span, and adverse future generations. The major cause is: Their cell structures were disturbed by MRT and the cells do not function normally. Mrs. Sally Cheshire (HFEA Chair, a finance and business professional) does not have common sense and scientific background to correctly understand that human beings should not be changed to subhuman being as species. She did not know that MRT will change cell structures in eggs or zygotes, which will make all of the future cells in the MRT babies to be in abnormal cell structures, and will lead to abnormal organ and system functions. Those MRT babies are not the same as normal human species in scientific background - cell anatomy, in organ functions and in system functions, although their faces and bodies were looked to be the same as normal human. She was not able to collect complete information without bias from other countries such as five stillbirth in China, performed by Dr. John Zhang in 2003. She also failed to correctly and scientifically analyze statistical data to show to the congress the unsafe results of MRT. At last, she granted the licence to Newcastle Fertility Centre to perform MRT with pro-nuclear transfer (PNT) or maternal spindle transfer (MST) techniques. Although she is very kind, she failed in her responsibility by her limited scientific ability. She should resign her employment as chair of HFEA and the licence granted should be suspended. Parliament should waive their decision about MRT, thus to save the luster of Great Britain for the aim of keeping normal and nature human species in England. U.S contains the most advanced scientists and techniques in the world in the field of human reproduction. Why did U.S. ban MRT in U.S. and is happy UK to try it? That is: U.S. threw the “hot potato” to England, and to see how long English can hold it in their hands. Some reporters described the MRT discussion as a political issue, as a religion reason, as an ethical reason or as a safety issue. All of these could not get the key point of the discussion. The key point is: THIS IS THE INTERNATIONAL BIG FIGHT FOR KEEPING NATURAL HUMAN SPECIES NOT TO BE CHANGED ARTIFICIALLY. IT IS A HUMAN AND ANTI-HUMAN FIGHT. DO NOT DO ANYTHING HARMFUL OR BETRAY THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN BEINGS. We (people and true scientists of all countries in the world) have fought for this for twenty years and prepare the fight will last for 3 to 4 centuries. About the abnormal Molecular Biochemistry of the mothers’ eggs, please read: “CHANGING HUMAN BEINGS BY MRT IS MISLEADING AND NOT SCIENTIFIC” published on ivf.net 05 December 2016 comment for “Expert panel approve cautious use of mitochondrial donation in the UK” response on 19 December 2016. Ke-Hui Cui M.D., Ph.D.

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